by Ken Quandt, Regional Manager
According to the old adage, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In 2005, the proof of the value of Nature Safe was in the quality of turf Nature Safe users were able to produce and maintain despite some of the worst growing conditions throughout the Midwest and the Northeast in the memory of most professional turf managers. Most areas experienced extremely high temperatures and dry conditions from May until the middle of October. During that time, both the turf and the superintendents were under extreme stress. A lot of turf, along with a superintendent or two, threw in the towel.
Essentially, it was the summer from Hell. In talking with turf professionals throughout the affected area, it is remarkable how many of them attribute the survival of their turf to the Nature Safe program they were on all summer. During mild summers, the real benefits of a Nature Safe program are not always clear. However, after a summer like the one we just had, there can be little doubt. The benefits were particularly evident to turf professionals who were conducting field trials using Nature Safe alongside other fertilizers, both organic and synthetic. Where Nature Safe was used next to other products, the differences were like night and day. We were fortunate to have some superintendents who used Nature Safe on nine fairways and synthetic products on the other nine. Almost without exception, these superintendents are switching their entire programs to Nature Safe for 2006 because they saw such amazing differences.
In some instances, superintendents used Nature Safe on their bentgrass tees while they kept their bentgrass fairways on a synthetic program. Most of them reported a large reduction in diseases and an increase in turf quality on their tees while their fairways did not fare as well. This experience has convinced many of them that the increased quality of turf, coupled with the reduction in the amount of fungicides and other chemicals they normally require, makes Nature Safe the least costly and best way to maintain their turf.
Unfortunately, one cannot wait until the stress period to initiate a Nature Safe program. It is necessary to build the soil microbe populations before stress occurs. That can only be accomplished by applying Nature Safe regularly early in the season. By the time the stress periods arrive, the soil microbe population is large enough to help protect the plants. It is very similar to getting a flu shot – The shot is only beneficial if you get it before you come down with the flu. Once you have the flu it’s too late and you then suffer the consequences of your failure to take appropriate action. As one superintendent put it, “I have 40 weeks to prepare for 12 weeks of Hell. How I use those 40 weeks will determine if I succeed or fail. I don’t wait until the end of the 40 weeks to get started. I begin my preparations immediately after the 12 weeks of Hell are over by making regular applications of Nature Safe.”
The regular use of Nature Safe prepares turf for the rigors of summer in a number of important ways:
- It suppresses pathogenic fungi by greatly increasing the populations of beneficial organisms that compete with them.
- These same beneficial organisms also compete with organisms that cause localized dry spots, resulting in a decrease in LDS.
- It helps to reduce the activity of parasitic nematodes, which adds to the overall vigor of the plants.
- It lowers the soluble salt levels in the soil, which results in a reduction in the plant’s need for water.
- It helps to produce a deeper and more fibrous root system, which enables the plant to make better use of available nutrients and water.
- It helps to increase soil structure that further aids aeration and rooting.
- It increases the rate of photosynthesis due to the increased levels of carbon dioxide that is produced by the activity of the soil microbes.
The one feature of a Nature Safe program that was most appreciated by superintendents during this long, hot summer was the fact that they could maintain their regular fertility program despite the heat. They were able to keep their turf healthy without any fears of burning the turf or over stimulating it. Many superintendents on synthetic programs quit fertilizing their turf during the heat rather than taking a chance on damaging their turf. This resulted in weakened plants that were even more susceptible to summer stress.
Success stories from Nature Safe users this year seem to be the norm. I’m looking forward with great anticipation to hearing more success stories when I visit with superintendents from across the country at upcoming winter trade shows. We at Nature Safe would love to hear all of them.